"These are the toughest conditions I've experienced" – Kanaan

Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

"These are the toughest conditions I've experienced" – Kanaan


"These are the toughest conditions I've experienced" – Kanaan


Tony Kanaan would like you to know what it’s like to perform simulated Indy 500 qualifying runs while gusts of winds topping 30mph are throwing his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda around the 2.5-mile oval.

“I’m gonna ask you to walk, facing forward, don’t look back, and I’m gonna slap you from one side of your ear and then on the other of your ear, and you’re not gonna see it coming,” the 2013 Indy 500 winner told RACER. “That’s exactly what’s happening right now. At 242 miles an hour.”

Kanaan’s comments echo those of other drivers who were wide-eyed when relaying the sensations from inside their cars. The giant and shifting winds meant cars handled differently on each corner on each lap, as 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud said.

“It’s crazy understeer into Turn 3 and then crazy oversteer in [Turn] 4, and then who knows what’s waiting for you in Turn 1,” Pagenaud said. Tailwinds have pushed top speeds above 240mph, and while the number isn’t big, the effect the wind is having on chassis balance in the corners is frightening.

Without the winds, drivers are accustomed to have the aerodynamic center of pressure (CoP) migrate a few tenths of a percent. After watching his driver complete a particularly harrowing run, one race engineer described seeing a tenfold increase in CoP change, all thanks to the instant addition and reduction of downforce as the gusts hit the front and rear wings at different angles.

For Kanaan, the need to drive and get a feel for the car with high boost and somewhat low downforce is a necessity, but there are limits to how adventurous most drivers are wanting to be as the winds increase.

“You have to be brave regardless, right?” he said. “But in the 21 years that I’ve been here, these are the toughest conditions I’ve ever experienced. If this was on a Tuesday, nobody would be running, say it’s too windy. But it’s Fast Friday, you have to go out and explore, and the experienced guys do two laps to get a feel for it and like I told my race engineer [Chris] Simmons, I know what we got, we don’t need to do four laps, let’s be smart about this.”

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